Roger Scruton helps Richard Dawkins’ “meme” find its way to the wastebasket
|March 8, 2014||Posted by News under Intelligent Design, Culture, Evolutionary psychology, News|
In the New Atlantis, writer and philosopher Roger Scruton resoundingly trashes scientism in the arts. Put it this way: If being on the right side of an argument mattered, we would never hear anything about scientism in the arts again.
But today’s materialists are well entrenched and well beyond embarrassment, so be sure we will.
At any rate, one of his topics is Richard Dawkins’s celebrated substitute for th idea of a thought, the “meme”:
A meme is a self-replicating cultural entity that, lodging in the brain of a
human being, uses that brain to reproduce itself — just in the way that a catchy tune reproduces itself in hums and whistles, spreading like an epidemic through a human community, like “La donna è mobile” the morning after the first performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto. Dawkins argues that ideas, beliefs, and attitudes are the conscious forms taken by these self-replicating entities, which propagate themselves as diseases propagate themselves, by using the energies of their hosts: “Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperm or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to
brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.” …
Even if there are units of memetic information
propagated from brain to brain, it is not these units that come before the mind in conscious thinking. Memes stand to ideas as genes stand to organisms: if they exist at all (and no evidence has been given by Dawkins or anyone else that they do) then their ceaseless and purposeless reproduction is of no concern to culture. Ideas, by contrast, form part of the conscious network of critical thinking. We assess them for their truth, their validity, their moral propriety, their elegance, completeness, and charm. We take them up and discard them, sometimes in the course of our search for truth and explanation, sometimes in our search for meaning and value. And both activities are essential to us. Although culture isn’t science, it is just as much a conscious activity of the critical mind. Culture — both the high culture of art and music, and the wider culture embodied in a moral and religious tradition — sorts ideas by their intrinsic qualities, helps us to feel at home in the world and to resonate to its personal significance.
But memetics possesses the very fault for which it purports to be a remedy: it is a spell with which the scientistic mind seeks to conjure away the
things that pose a threat to it — which is also how we should view scientism in general. Scientism involves the use of scientific forms and categories in order to give the appearance of science to unscientific ways of thinking. It is a form of magic, a bid to reassemble the complex matter of human life, at the magician’s command, in a shape over which he can exert control. It is an attempt to subdue what it does not understand. More.
Not to worry. It appears that our brains just didn’t evolve so as to see that the evo psychs are right even when they can’t handle the concepts and aren’t making any sense.
See also: Does science have answers to absolutely everything?
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